2007 Roadtrip From Mendoza to Villa Unión, Argentina

We left Mendoza on January 3rd, 2007, driving north through San Juan Province to La Rioja Province in Argentina. It was a 473km/294m drive on Ruta 40. The Auto Club of Argentina in Mendoza had telephoned the club in San Juan and had been assured that the road was paved all the way to our destination in Villa Unión, La Rioja Province.
We saw that just south of San Jose de Jáchal Ruta 40 stopped being paved. So we chose the alternate, Ruta 491 through San Jose de Jáchal, because a man along the road said it was fully paved. Well, it wasn’t. With 11 suitcases and 2 bikes on top of the car we had decided it wasn’t wise to travel on a dirt road for so many kilometers but we had no choice.
All day we had seen warning signs that there were animales sueltos (loose roaming animals) and, while I was driving, I saw goats. Dimitri started driving on the dirt road and at km 340 near Huaco a cabra/goat jumped into our car. The thump didn’t sound like much but when we got out to check the damage and the beautiful view, the hood of the car looked bad, and the grill work in front needed to be completely replaced.

Our car, after the goat jumped into it.


The views and colors were amazing and the drive was otherwise pleasant, though longer than we prefer. The red/ochre and contrasting green bushes made for a visual feast.

The views along the unpaved road to Villa Unión


The desert gets rain in Januarys and there had been a torrential storm the day before. We could see the damage and we were told that the road had been closed. So we were happy that we could get through even if slowly on the dirt road. There wasn’t much traffic.


In Villa Unión, Dimitri had identified a hotel, Las Pircas Negras (telephone 038-257-70611, web: http://www.hotelpircasnegras.com/). He thought would be good because it was new. We looked at the standard room and we couldn’t fit in, with all of our luggage and it wouldn’t be comfortable, without a sofa from which to watch TV. The only other option was the Carlos Menen Presidential Suite and at AP$200/ US $65.36 (including breakfast), we grabbed it. It was huge with a living room, dining room, bedroom, and second toilet room and, of course, air conditioning. Evidently Carlos Menen comes to the hotel often.


We chose Villa Unión because it is only 57 km/35 miles to the Parque Nacional Talampaya. Other options were farther. We were told that the Parque had been closed that day because of rain. The other park we wanted to visit is Parque Provincial Ishigualasto, known as Valle de la Luna. It had also been closed because of the rain. First thing the next morning we called the park and were told it would open at some point during the day.